The 2018 Bart Starr Award

will be presented to a current NFL player for outstanding character, integrity and leadership on and off the field.  

NFL players will vote in mid-December when they vote for the Pro Bowl.  The winner will be announced the first week in January.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Presented By:

2017 Winner

Matthew Slater

Phone Call From Cherry Starr - Matthew Slater surprised by call from Mrs. Bart Starr

   The New England Patriots probably didn’t know what a treasure they were signing when they chose Matthew Slater with the 153rd pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, but it’s a decision they haven’t likely regretted. For the past six seasons, Slater’s teammates have elected him captain of special teams where his stellar performance has named him to the Pro Bowl each year.

Slater has been a leader and a positive example to his team both on and off the field. After every game, win or lose, he leads his team in prayer as the stands empty and the lights go down. His teammates admire his poise and professionalism as well as his humble adherence to his faith, striving to be like him as both a football player and a man.

He is highly involved in the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, partnering with many organizations such as Play 60, Make-A-Wish, and Read between the Lines. Slater received the Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2016 for his dedication to the community of New England; he looks at football as a vehicle God has given him to reach people. He recruited some of his fellow Patriots to attend his “Matthew vs. Matthew” charity event this past October, a dinner and raffle to benefit Samaritan’s Purse in their relief efforts following Hurricane Matthew.

Slater’s father, Jackie Slater, received the Bart Starr Award in 1996, making the Slaters the first father-son duo to ever win the award. Growing up, Matthew Slater’s mother would drop him and his brother at church on Sundays and pick them up a bit early to watch his father’s NFL games. Slater certainly had a wonderful example of leadership and character to look up to in his childhood that paved the way for his later success.

Slater and his wife, Shahrzad, have a one-year-old son, Jeremiah.

2016 Winner

Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers

In his 11-year career with the Carolina Panthers, Thomas Davis has made a massive impact, both on and off the field. A five-year team captain, in 2012 Davis became the first known NFL player to return for a full season after three ACL reconstructions on the same knee; and in the last three years, he’s played some of the best football of his career.

Selected as the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft from the University of Georgia, Davis puts his shoulder into as many charities as he does enemy ball carriers. In 2008, Davis and his wife, Kelly, started the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation (TDDDF), a nonprofit dedicated to providing and promoting free programs that enhance the quality of life for more than 2,000 underprivileged children and their families annually. Since its inception, the foundation has distributed more than $500,000 in aid.

Based on the principles of educate/empower/defend, the foundation’s cornerstone program is the Youth Leadership Academy, a 14-week after-school mentoring program for low-income middle school students. The academy emphasizes areas like etiquette, public speaking, leadership and community involvement.

The Defending Dreams Foundation provides a variety of other programs free to participants. The annual youth football camp serves over 350 young boys and girls and emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet and exercise in addition to teaching proper football fundamentals.  To kick off the school year, the foundation hosts an annual back-to-school supply giveaway, providing over 600 supply-filled backpacks to low-income students. Every November, Davis takes his teammates to a local restaurant to serve clients of the Battered Women’s Shelter a hot Thanksgiving meal. TDDDF also holds an annual Christmas giveaway, distributing presents in communities throughout the Carolinas and Davis’s hometown in Georgia.

In addition to the personal time and commitment he gives to his foundation’s programs and fundraising efforts, Thomas is also actively involved with the American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter, the Second Harvest Food Bank, Levine Children’s Hospital and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

In April of 2014, Davis received the Call to Courage Award, given annually to a Christian athlete who displays exemplary character through both adversity and triumph. Davis was also recognized in 2014 as the  Walter Payton Man of the Year.